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ISSUE 120 VOL 7 PUBLISHED 11/10/2006

Wind blows blessed blades: Founders' Day celebration includes turbine dedication ceremony

By Andrea Horbinski
Opinion Editor

Friday, November 10, 2006

During chapel on Monday, Nov. 6, members of the St. Olaf College community gathered at the site of the wind turbine, a cornfield near the Skoglund Center, to celebrate Founders’ Day and to dedicate the turbine. The "St. Olaf School" was founded on that day 132 years ago in 1874.

Monday’s attendees were given pinwheels as they arrived, and they held them high throughout the ceremony, on a day which was fittingly windy. The programs also included directions on how to make pinwheels out of them. The outdoor chapel service began with an invocation by College Pastor Bruce Benson, after which the group sang "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee," a hymn which mentions wind and the Holy Spirit several times. The music for the service was provided by the St. Olaf Wind Turbine Band under the baton of Paul Niemisto.

Benson, Niemisto, the band members, some faculty members and the speakers (with the notable exception of President David R. Anderson ’74) all wore hats with propellers on them as well. Anderson donned one of the beanies after the ceremony’s conclusion. He delivered his remarks, like the rest of the speakers, standing on the stairway leading into the turbine shaft.

Anderson’s remarks recalled portions of his inaugural response. He called Founders’ Day an occasion for retrospection, citing St. Olaf’s "unobstructed view" of its past and its origins as one circumstance which empowers the college "to live our identity today." He exhorted the college to view its future in light of its past, saying of the turbine that "this beautiful sculptural machine looms above us as a marker on the road ahead." The turbine, he said, "lightens the college’s footprint on the land we steward" and exemplifies the college living its ideals, generating electricity and representing "the sustaining power of our creating God."

Assistant Vice President for Facilities Pete Sandberg spoke next. He thanked people who had helped make the turbine possible, saying, "I frequently dream up stuff I can’t deliver," but that with their help the turbine became a reality.

Sandberg told the crowd that Genesis’s description of humans being given dominion over the earth was "not a license to dominate or to exploit," and that the turbine "looks like dominion but isn’t."

Rather, he said, even though the summer delays of construction made it seem "like nothing would ever be right again," the turbine and the ongoing construction projects are signs of a new St. Olaf, "more beautiful, more resourceful and a better steward," trying to be born.

STOGROW founder Day Burtness ‘07 read a poem about usefulness and thanked the people who, "without fanfare or applause," made the turbine happen and then called on the college "to make ourselves useful."

Professor of History and American Studies Jim Farrell offered the last remarks, calling the turbine a part of the "larger ecological revolution of the 21st century" and discussing his belief that at St. Olaf higher education is endowed with higher aspirations, including an aspiration to be one of the primary engines of ecological change.

"Wind turbines don’t just grow in cornfields," Farrell said, noting that the turbine is part of a statewide effort to make Minnesota "the Saudi Arabia of wind," and that with its construction, Northfield should now be known as the town of "cows, colleges, and common sense."

After Farrell’s remarks Benson formally offered a dedication prayer and blessing of the turbine, asking of the turbine that "may it symbolize the peace and just purposes of St. Olaf" and that "its power be used to bless." The crowd then sang "Fram, Fram," Benson offered a parting benediction and attendees dispersed back up to campus or to the reception, to the tune of "Um Ya Ya," played by the Wind Turbine Band.

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